Kerry to Ohio: Vote Your Wallets, Please


CLEVELAND, October 21—Despite a Bush-Cheney blitzkrieg here, the Kerry-Edwards campaign has inched ahead in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Pollsters cautiously predict a Kerry win in Pennsylvania, with the key southeastern part of the state, where economic issues and health care are important, going for the Massachusetts senator.

In Ohio, pro-Kerry forces are pumping in yet more resources.

The central push comes from the unions, but volunteers from MoveOn are also fanning out, asking voters to come to the polls. There are now more than 70 MoveOn staff organizers in the state, with that number expected to double in the final days of the contest. Some 1,200 volunteers are going door-to-door and manning phone banks.

MoveOn aims to make sure everyone who can vote is able to do so, and last night at a meeting, organizers told a group of fresh recruits how to handle barriers thrown up by the Republican secretary of state Kenneth J. Blackwell, whom some are calling the nation’s second Katherine Harris after Florida’s secretary of state during the 2000 presidential election.

A University of Cincinnati poll, conducted by its Institute for Pubic Policy Research and released Tuesday, has John Kerry at 48 percent, George Bush at 46. An ABC poll last Thursday put Kerry at 50, Bush 47.

The intensified drive by Kerry-Edwards is focused on voters’ economic interests. That certainly ought to find resonance here, where long lines of people wait for hours in hope of getting a flu shot. Yesterday’s news of a boost in Social Security was greeted with grim sarcasm, with The Plain Dealer pointing out that the 2.7 percent increase translates into a monthly increase of $25—and even that will be reduced to a grand total of $13.40 when the steep new Medicare premiums are deducted.

On Thursday, The Plain Dealer dumped more bad news on Ohio by publishing a detailed report on the economy that shows the state tanking while Bush continues his rosy depictions of a national economy on the rebound. Per capita income in the state has stagnated. The state has seen eight years of slower job growth than the rest of the nation, reports The Plain Dealer. From early 2000 through the first quarter of 2004, Ohio lost 263,507 jobs. That is 5 percent of the state’s total employment and over one-third of the 710,000 jobs lost nationwide.

Another indicator: While homes were selling at steadily increasing prices around the nation, in some places at annual gains of 18 percent, sales in Ohio were actually declining by some 3 percent. In part, that’s because of the boom in foreclosures, with Ohio among the top three states. The number of foreclosures is startling, with Lorain County, to the south of Cleveland, suffering some 1,300 last year, another 700 so far in 2004.

As for talk of an economic rebound, “It’s sort of like saying if the Browns are losing 42-0, is it good news that they score a touchdown and make it 42-7?” George Zeller, senior researcher at the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland, told The Plain Dealer.

Additional reporting: David Botti